Holidailies 2007

Postings during the 30 days of Holidailies 2007 (www.holidailies.org).

So Long, and Thanks for All the Holidailies

Holidailies 2007 badgeAnother year of Holidailies now draws to a close.

At the start of the month I said:

I crashed and burned on Holidailies last year. We put a lot of work into the promotion and development. Sold a lot of ads. Had more participants than ever before. It was the most successful—and most difficult—Holidailies iteration ever.

Even worse, with all the growth and success, it seems like Jette's original purpose may have been lost.

With those words in mind, I'm going to declare Holidailies 2007 a big fat success—at least for me. I had fun with it this year.

What I Learned from Holidailies

Holidailies 2007 badgeThis is my penultimate entry for Holidailies 2007. The goal was a month of daily blogging and I'm on track to achieve that (for the first time in my many years of Holidailies participation).

I've learned a couple things from this exercise.

The first thing I learned is that I'm not as interesting as I thought I was. But, then again, who is?

Although I've had a handful of posts over the past month where I think I've had something pretty valuable to say (such as the Socialized Football and Time Warner Rate Increase posts), the blather ratio was higher than I'd have hoped.

Part of the problem is that I'd intended to write on things that came out of interesting December projects, but I didn't have many of those. I didn't take much time off from work, and I spent that little free time on family stuff not projects.

Music Industry Sues Man for Ripping His Own CDs

You've probably heard about all the lawsuits the recording industry has been using against music sharing and downloading. Sometimes it seems like the recording industry is on the warpath against their own best potential customers.

Now, imagine the dumbest thing the recording industry could possibly do—that you know even they wouldn't be stupid enough to try. Something, say, like suing somebody for buying music and ripping their own CDs to their computer. They couldn't possibly be that dumb and greedy to try that, right?

Ha, silly you! The Washington Post wrote last week:

In legal documents in its federal case against Jeffrey Howell, a Scottsdale, Ariz., man who kept a collection of about 2,000 music recordings on his personal computer, the industry maintains that it is illegal for someone who has legally purchased a CD to transfer that music into his computer.

The industry's lawyer in the case, Ira Schwartz, argues in a brief filed earlier this month that the MP3 files Howell made on his computer from legally bought CDs are "unauthorized copies" of copyrighted recordings.

Identifying Wi-Fi Hogs

I'm having increasing problems with poor network performance at public wi-fi hotspots.

I'm particularly susceptible to bandwidth problems, because I do a lot of interactive work on the net. Most people use the net in batch mode: fetch a web page, download an email, and the like. I'm often logged into a remote server, transmitting small packets of information a keystroke at a time.

I have a sneaking suspicion that a lot of times I observe network performance problems, that's because somebody is being a bandwidth hog. They may be doing something like connecting to a streaming music server, which uses a continual and significant part of the network bandwidth.

I have no hard data to support or disprove my theory. So, this afternoon, I did a little research. What I want is a network analysis tool that puts my wireless interface into promiscuous mode (that's a mode where an application can see what everybody is doing on the network), and then accumulates network usage by the various devices on the net.

Growing up in No Reading

No Reading street sign(Today is the Day of Giving for the Holidailies Charity Project. Please consider showing your support for Holidailies or my site by making a small donation ($12 suggested) to First Book, an organization that provides books to children in low-income families.)

I'm a big advocate of literacy, which is odd considering how little reading I do these days.

Well, that's not really correct. I actually do a lot of reading. It's just that my reading tends to be either online or technical books. I don't seem to do much recreational or non-technical book reading.

As a child I was much more of an avid reader. I remember the old public library in the town square. The entire bottom floor was children's books. My mother used to take me regularly. During the summer, I would always join the reading club, and I'd fill my reading card without fail.

My Favorite Linux Distro

Today's Holidailies writing prompt is, "What is your favorite Linux distribution?" Seeing that I'm the person who contributed that prompt (albeit kind of in jest) I suppose I should answer it.

I don't have just one favorite Linux distribution. My favorite depends on the application.

For desktop systems, I am using the Kubuntu Linux distribution. It's a variant of the widely used Ubuntu Linux distribution. I like the Ubuntu family of distributions because of the robust development activity and the large number of applications available. I'm using Kubuntu on my main workstation chinacat, my laptop hepcat, and my living room media computer coldsnap. It's a good fit for all those situations.

Rate Link Patch

I mentioned last week that I added a "rate this post" feature to my blog using the Drupal fivestar module.

There is a serious usability issue with this module. If you don't show the rating widget on the article teaser then visitors probably won't know there is a rating feature, and so there may not be a lot of rating activity. (The teaser is the first few paragraphs of the entry, displayed on the blog page.)

Comments work similarly to ratings. You have to click through to the full article to leave a comment, just as you do a rating. This, however, doesn't present the same problem as article ratings. First, visitors tend to know that if a blog supports comments, you have to click through to the full article to access the comments. Article ratings aren't a common feature, so visitors don't expect them.

Merry Whatever-It-Is

I don't celebrate Christmas. My relationship to Christmas is somewhat akin to my relationship with Canadian Independence Day. They are perfectly fine holidays and I totally support their celebration. But they aren't my holidays. Please don't ask me to participate. I'll just observe respectfully from a distance.

In years past, I quietly spent the holiday season working on personal projects. While the rest of the world was busy with its holiday rituals, I had a rare opportunity to carve out a week or two for work on some new software or house project or something.

Things changed a couple years back when started dating my now-wife. She does observe Christmas and it's important to her. In years past, she's traveled back to be with her family, sometimes taking me along, other times leaving me in Austin to work on my projects. Even when I traveled with her I didn't really have to observe the holiday. I just tagged along and acted the gracious guest while others celebrated.

This year it's different. For the first time, we decided to spend our holiday season together alone. I couldn't do nothing, for that would be denying my wife her holiday, which was important to her.

Trail of Grief

Trail of Lights, Zilker Park, AustinI've been in Austin for eighteen years. I've passed up the annual Trail of Lights festival seventeen times. Last night I broke that record, and I'm kind of sorry I did.

It certainly is as big and as beautiful as everybody says—maybe more so. The problem is that it's also just as crowded as everybody says—maybe more so. So, rather than being a relaxed stroll in the park, taking in all the wonderful sights, it feels to me more like a mile long death march—one where you are constantly being rolled over by baby carriages and people too busy texting to watch where they are going.

I give a lot of credit to Cap Metro and PARD for managing the huge crowds as well as they do.

Thanksgiving on the Beach

photo of Jette and I at Nubble Lighthouse, York Beach, MaineAs we approach the December holiday season, it seemed like a good time to post a photo from the holiday last month. Jette and I did a four state tour of New England over the Thanksgiving holiday.

This photograph was taken at the Nubble Lighthouse in York Beach, Maine. The beach is a tourist town. It has an oceanside boardwalk. Its condos and cottages are filled during the summer by visitors from nearby New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

At this time of the year, the town is mostly deserted. When we went to the blues bar or Chinese restaurant, the only places open on the boardwalk at that time, it seemed like the sparse crowd was all locals.

We were in York Beach for a couple of quiet days. No phone, no cable, no Internet. We did have a couple of DVDs we could watch at night, but it was mostly a time of enforced quiet, which was nice.

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